Beijing last night threatened Taiwan with destruction if President Chen Shui-bian doesn’t accept China is “one nation.”

In an official statement, the mainland government warned Taiwan leaders to make choices about the future carefully or the “Chinese people will crush their schemes firmly and thoroughly at any cost.”

“At present, the relations across the Taiwan Strait are severely tested,” the statement said. “To put a resolute check on the ‘Taiwan independence’ activities aimed at dismembering China … is the most pressing task before the compatriots on both sides of the strait.”

The statement was issued by the Taiwan Affairs Office under the Communist Party and the State Council. It came four days before Chen is inaugurated as president.

“Chen Shui-bian has left Taiwan society deeply torn with his vicious mischaracterization of the popular will of the Taiwan people, his unbridled instigation of hostility and animosity towards the mainland, and his frenzied provocation to the status quo that both the mainland and Taiwan belong to the one and same China,” the harshly worded document said.

China offered Taiwan a carrot as well as a stick.

If Chen accepts the one-China policy, Beijing held out the hope of negotiations leading to an end to hostilities, establishment of a mechanism to resolve cross-strait disputes, direct commercial and transport links, closer economic co-operation and greater market access.

The statement added: “The Taiwan leaders have before them two roads: one is to pull back immediately from their dangerous lurch towards independence … The other is to keep following their separatist agenda to cut Taiwan from the rest of China, and in the end, meet their own destruction by playing with fire.”

Taiwan’s Mainland Affairs Council and the Presidential Office had no immediate response to the statement.

The U.S. has sent its aircraft carrier strike group led by the USS Kitty Hawk to cruise the East Asian region ahead of Thursday’s inauguration ceremony.

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